Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 0.183
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.283

CiteScore 2017: 0.23

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.228
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.634

Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 2018, Issue 221


Stance markers in television news presentation: Expressivity of eyebrow flashes in the delivery of news

Zhengrui Han / Hongqiang Zhu
  • Corresponding author
  • College of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
  • Department of English, FAH, University of Macau, Macau, China
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-02-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0138


The discourse of broadcast news is shifting toward being more “conversational.” As a consequence, rather than assuming the traditional poker-face style of delivering news on television, news readers as televised personae are becoming more “informal” and “dialogic” in order to better relate to audiences. Eyebrow flashes, as a communicative resource in television news presentation, play an important part in construing the expressiveness of presentation and engaging with audiences. Drawing upon insights from nonverbal communication studies (especially the pragmatics of nonverbal communication) and discourse analysis, this paper explores the pragmatics of eyebrow flashes as a marker of expressivity in news delivery, and the interaction of eyebrow flashes with the verbal context, based on data collected from Chinese broadcast news in English. The analysis shows that eyebrow flashes are widely employed to initiate the theme of the agent in news messages (implicating “I know something”), to emphasize the focus of the news statements (implying “I am thinking now”), and to respond to the attributed statement (indicating “I want to know more”). Therefore, eyebrow flashes function to assist viewers in construing alignment with authors or reporters of news, as well as alignment with audiences. In addition, they serve to distill personal emotion to hybridize the institutional voice of news, thus rendering television news more “watchable” and engaging.

Keywords: news discourse; television news presentation; expressivity; eyebrow flashes; stance marker; nonverbal communication


  • Allen, Robert C. 1992. Audience-oriented criticism and television. In Robert C. Allen (ed.), Channels of discourse, reassembled, 101–137. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Bednarek, Monica. 2009. Evaluation in media discourse: Analysis of a newspaper corpus. London: Continuum.Google Scholar

  • Bednarek, Monica & Helen Caple. 2012a. News discourse. London: Continuum.Google Scholar

  • Bednarek, Monica & Helen Caple. 2012b. “Value added”: Language, image, and news values. Discourse, Context & Media 1. 103–113.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Bednarek, Monica & Helen Caple. 2014. Why do news values matter? Towards a new methodological framework for analyzing news discourse in Critical Discourse Analysis and beyond. Discourse & Society 25(2). 135–158.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bell, Allan. 1991. The language of news media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Biber, Douglas & Edward Finegan. 1989. Styles of stance in English: Lexical and grammatical marking of evidentiality and affect. Text 9. 93–124.Google Scholar

  • Biber, Douglas, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, Susan Conrad & Edward Finegan. 1999. Longman grammar of spoken and written language. London: Pearson.Google Scholar

  • Birdwhistell, Ray. 1970. Kinesics and context. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar

  • Bolinger, Dwight. 1985. Intonation and its parts. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar

  • Bucy, Erik P. & Maria Elizabeth Grabe. 2007. Taking television seriously: A sound and image bite analysis of presidential campaign coverage, 1992–2004. Journal of Communication 57(4). 652–675.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cavé, C., I. Guaïtella, R. Bertrand, S. Santi, F. Harlay & R. Espesser. 1996. About the relationship between eyebrow movements and F0 variations. In Proceedings of the international conference on spoken language processing, 2175–2179. Philadelphia.Google Scholar

  • Chafe, Wallace L. 1974. Language and consciousness. Language 50. 111–133.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Clayman, Steven & John Heritage. 2002. The news interview: Journalists and public figures on the air. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Dennis, Everett E. 1984. Journalistic objectivity is possible. In Everette E. Dennis & John Calhoun Merrill (eds.), Basic issues in mass communication: A debate, 111–118. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar

  • Du Bois, John. 2007. The stance triangle. In R. Englebreston (ed.), Stance-taking in discourse, 139–182. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Eibl-Eibesfelt, Irenäus. 1972. Similarities and differences between cultures in expressive movements. In Robert Hinde (ed.), Nonverbal communication, 297–314. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Ekman, Paul. 1979. About brows: Emotional and conversational signals. In Mario Von Cranach & Klaus Foppa (eds.), Human ethology: Claims and limits of a new discipline, 169–202. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Fairclough, Norman. 1994. Conversationalization of public discourse and the authority of the consumer. In Russell Keat, Nigel Whiteley & Nicholas Abercrombie (eds.), The authority of the consumer, 253–268 London: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Media discourse. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar

  • Glasgow University Media Group. 1976. Bad news. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar

  • Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar

  • Hirschberg, Julia. 1993. Pitch accents in context: Predicting intonational prominence from text. Artificial Intelligence 63. 305–340.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jaffe, Alexandra. 2009. Introduction: The sociolinguistics of stance. In Alexandra Jaffe (ed.), Stance: Sociolinguistic perspective, 3–28. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Johnstone, Barbara. 2009. Stance, style, and the linguistic individual. In Alexandra Jaffe (ed.), Stance: Sociolinguistic perspective, 29–52. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Krahmer, Emiel & Marc Swerts. 2004. More about brows: A cross-linguistic study via analysis-by-synthesis. In Zsófia Ruttkay & Catherine Pelachaud (eds.), From brows to trust, 191–216. Dortrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar

  • Lilleker, Darren G. 2006. Key concepts in political communication. London: SageGoogle Scholar

  • Martin, Jim & Peter White. 2005. The language of evaluation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

  • McNair, Brian. 1999. Journalism and democracy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Montgomery, Martin. 2007. The discourse of broadcast news. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Montgomery, Martin. forthcoming. Media language, technology and broadcast talk. In Colleen Cotter & D. Perrin (eds.), Routledge handbook of language and media. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Morgan, Bayard Q. 1953. Question melodies in American English. American Speech 2. 181–191.Google Scholar

  • Moscowitz, Leigh M. 2010. Gay marriage in television news: Voice and visual representation in the same-sex marriage debate. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 54(1). 24–39.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Mujica, Constanza & Ingrid Bachmann. 2013. Melodramatic profiles of Chilean newscasts: The case of emotionalization. International Journal of Communication 7. 1801–1820.Google Scholar

  • Pantti, Mervi. 2010. The value of emotion: An examination of television journalist’s notion of emotionality. European Journal of Communication 25(2). 168–181.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Richards, Barry. 2007. Emotional governance: Politics, media, and terror. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

  • Ryan, Michael. 2001. Journalistic ethics, objectivity, existential journalism, standpoint epistemology, and public journalism. Journal of Mass Media Ethics 16(1). 3–22.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Scannell, Paddy. 1996. Radio, television, and modern life: A phenomenological approach. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Scannell, Paddy. 2000. For-anyone-as-someone structures. Media, Culture & Society 22(1). 5–24.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Terken, Jacques. 1984. The distribution of pitch accents in instructions as a function of discourse structure. Language and Speech 27. 269–289.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Tsfati, Yariv, Dana Markowitz Elfassi & Israel Waismel-Manor. 2010. Exploring the association between Israeli legislators’ physical attractiveness and their television news coverage. International Journal of Press/Politics 15(2). 175–192.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Tuchman, Gaye. 1972. Objectivity as strategic ritual: An examination of newsmen’s notion of objectivity. American Journal of Sociology 77(4). 660–679.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wang, Tai-Li & Akiba A. Cohen. 2009. Factors affecting viewers’ perceptions of sensationalism in television news: A survey study in Taiwan. Issues & Studies 45(2). 125–157.Google Scholar

  • White, Peter R. R. 1998. Telling media tales: The news story as rhetoric. Sydney: University of Sydney dissertation.Google Scholar

  • White, Peter R. R. 2012. Exploring the axiological workings of “reporter voice” news stories: Attribution and attitudinal positioning. Discourse, Context & Media 1(2–3). 57–67.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 1999. Emotions across languages and cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 2000. The semantics of human facial expression. Pragmatics and Cognition 8(1). 147–183.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2018-02-28

Published in Print: 2018-03-26

The Humanities and Social Sciences Project, granted by Ministry of Education, China, (Grant/Award Number: ‘[Grant Number: 13YJC740028]’) The MYRG supported by the University of Macau, (Grant/Award Number: ‘[Grant Number: MYRG 133 (Y1-L4)-FSH12-MM]’).

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2018, Issue 221, Pages 279–300, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0138.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in